Talking Wine – July 2015

Yet another story has surfaced regarding wine fraud and again it is aimed at the innocent but wealthy public who know little about the subject. There is this myth that all wine improves with age and the value rises with it. This is simply untrue. Firstly most normal everyday wine does not improve with age although the character of the product might evolve to appeal to certain tastes. For example there are many old school traditionalists who enjoy their claret (red Bordeaux) after many years in bottle whereas others (I count myself amongst these) prefer a younger wine with more fruit and balanced acidity. So does it improve or is it a matter of taste and style? Secondly you have to spend a huge amount to buy wine that may possibly have the potential to age well and rise in value but like shares the market will dictate this and what seems like a sensible investment at the time may not turn out to be so.

I am sure that slick salesmen can come up with examples of great returns on wine. A friend of mine bought 2 cases of 1982 Chateau Le Pin for under £100 a case at the time of release (her boyfriend was called Pin!) It was then ‘discovered’ by the great wine guru Robert Parker and years later those cases were sold for over £10k. On the other hand I have a friend who keeps being sold dodgy Burgundy which will apparently improve with age but by the time he gets round to drink it the fruit and flavour have disappeared as fast as the salesman!!

Herein lies the problem. Slick salesmen can take your money up front and supposedly store the wine in perfect temperature controlled conditions. You will get an initial bill plus storage charges but have you have never seen the wine in the bonded warehouse, physically marked with your name on it. You may get a stock control list and the con artists will probably give you a chart showing you how you ‘investment’ is doing before targeting you for more cash to fund the lifestyle you are supplying them. Because the investment has been sold as ‘long term’ it will be years before the con is discovered. Even if you want a case or two out from bond to drink the clever salesman buys it from the market and supplies you with it thus putting off the day that you discover he drives an Aston Martin, has a house in the South of France and an account in the Cayman Islands.

So what is the answer? Well, as a victim of a share boiler house scam, I should be in a good position to advise you. Do NOT be taken in by glossy literature or blind phone calls. If you have money to spend on wine and have a genuine interest in the subject then contact a really respectable firm who specialise in this investment area. Do NOT expect huge returns and do NOT regard it as an investment. Treat it as a way of indulging your passion and be philosophical. Some cases will delight and others will disappoint. Some may rise in value and others will not!!

A customer of ours bought about 10 cases of good 2005 Claret. The wines are good and have turned out well but the realisable value has not risen as fast as he would have liked because of the recession. A foul vitriolic letter arrived on our doorstep accusing us of giving him false advice but we distinctly remember at the time explaining that whilst we rated the wine we could not predict future returns which depends entirely on the market’s response to the economy’s health. There can never be guarantees about this.

So BEWARE . Don’t expect guaranteed profit. It’s far safer to find a wine you have tasted and liked and then buy a case or two and drink it, preferably in congenial company.